Recently a pissed off superintendent brought to my attention that industry organizations have made too many cuts to environmental research related to the effect of golf courses on the environment. "The future of golf relies on this kind of research" he said. "How are future superintendents suppose to know what to change if we don't understand why something happens, how do we even know if we are influencing changes in the first place?". I told him to donate some money to Turfhugger and we'll do our own studies... I haven't seen any come in yet! haha.
Re: Research Cuts - check out PSU's letter to the GCSAA.
Regardless there's still lots out there, and perhaps we should look outside our industry for a look at the effect of golf courses on the environment.
The River Basins Research Initiative (RBRI) in SC, began in 1996 with two Furman University students studying a 3 km2 watershed, and has grown to become an interdisciplinary study of the Broad and Saluda River Basins that, since 1999, has involved more than 170 student participants.
The long-term goal of this research program is the systematic characterization of both rural and urban watersheds to develop an understanding of the extent of human impact, particularly urbanization, on river systems in the Blue Ridge and Piedmont Provinces of South Carolina . The research broadly encompasses studies of land cover change and the impact of change on stream hydrology, biogeochemistry, biodiversity, and geomorphology. The Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan area, one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country, is located in the headwaters of the study area. Over the past decade, over 700 samples were take in the Saluda, Enoree and Tyger River basins.
Ok, now the part about golf courses. First a Video, followed by some Student Abstracts, Findings and resources. In this Video, Furman University students talk about their recent research, which seeks to understand the environmental impact of golf courses.
I went through all of the Student Abstracts and found these three from 2009. I highlighted the findings and included a link to the whole summary of each project. What can we learn from these? We need to shade our streams to cool down water temperatures and secondly the way in which we do this must remain effective throughout the day, i.e. full shade canopy.
The impact of golf courses on stream water temperature in the upper piedmont, Greenville, South Carolina
In this study a comparative analysis of stream water temperature was conducted at six different golf courses in Greenville, South Carolina. Courses were selected that had continuous, tributary free and lake free reaches that passed through the golf course grounds. At each course, stream water temperature was measured at 5 minute intervals from June – November 2008 at a site upstream and downstream of the course. An Onset Water Temp Pro V2 temperature logger secured to the stream bottom was used to measure water temperature. In addition to stream temperature, a number of other parameters were assessed along the golf course stream reach including stream discharge measurements under baseflow conditions, stream length between sampling sites, the extent of riparian cover along the stream banks, and any human alterations to the stream's channel morphology.
Under baseflow conditions during the period of record, the sites downstream of the courses exhibited (1) consistently higher stream water temperatures (on the order of 4 – 10 ° during the afternoon hours) and (2) significantly larger diurnal F temperature ranges (typically two to three times larger) compared to their upstream counterparts. The observed temperature differences between the up and downstream sites were primarily due to the lack of riparian cover along the golf course reaches and to a lesser extent alterations in the stream channel morphology. Temperature differences among the sites were governed by differences in stream discharge and stream length in addition to the extent of riparian cover and channel alteration. Although the impacts of these temperature modifications on the ecology, biology, and chemistry of the stream system are not known, the magnitude of the temperature change is large enough to be of potential consequence.
*Ashman, K., *Drake, S., Dripps, W. R., and *Saunders, M., 2009, The impact of golf courses on stream water temperature in the upper piedmont, Greenville, South Carolina, 58th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 41, March 12-13, St. Petersburg, FL [PDF]
The impacts of golf courses on stream water pH and dissolved oxygen in the upper piedmont, Greenville, SC
In this study a comparative analysis of stream water pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature was conducted at four different golf courses in Greenville, South Carolina. Courses were selected that had continuous, tributary free and lake free reaches that passed through the golf course grounds. At each course, one YSI sonde was placed just upstream of the golf course and a second was placed in the same stream just downstream of the golf course for somewhere between three to six days, depending on the weather and flow conditions. The sondes were secured to cinder blocks on the stream bottom and synchronized to make simultaneous readings every 5 minutes for pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature for the period of deployment.
There were distinct differences in pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature between the up and downstream sites at each course, although relative differences among sites were not consistent, with some sites having higher pH and/or dissolved oxygen downstream and other sites exhibiting the opposite. All sites downstream of the courses exhibited markedly larger diurnal ranges (fancy Uni speak for "daily") for all three parameters compared to their upstream counterparts. The exact reasons for the observed differences are an area for further study, but are presumed to be related to the lack of riparian cover along the golf course stream reach and the consequent increase in sunlight exposure and associated biological activity in stream. Regardless of the causes, the differences are significant and suggest that most golf courses are likely having a measurable impact on the stream physical parameters.
*Saunders, M., Dripps, W. R., *Ashman, K., *Drake, S., 2009, The impacts of golf courses on stream water pH and dissolved oxygen in the upper piedmont, Greenville, SC, 58th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 41, March 12-13, St. Petersburg, FL [PDF]
Geomorphology of streams in urban golf courses in the South Carolina piedmont region
Golf courses are often built along streams for aesthetic purposes. Previous studies have speculated that golf courses may cause significant changes in stream geomorphology. In particular, use of riprap to increase bank stability along streams in golf courses is thought to promote channel incision. We tested the hypothesis that stream channels downstream of golf courses would be more incised than channels upstream of golf courses. We examined localities upstream and downstream of seven golf courses associated with urban land cover (n=14 localities in total), as well as three rural localities that were not
associated with golf courses. Incision, stream width, bankfull width, and substrate were measured or described qualitatively following the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Geomorphic Assessment Model. GIS was used to determine watershed areas, percent impervious cover, and stream lengths.
Among the upstream golf course localities, there was a positive correlation between bankfull width and incision (r=0.83;p=0.042). However, there was a negative correlation between bankfull width and incision among the downstream localities (r=-0.84; p=0.036). There were no significant differences in incision or bankfull width either between rural and upstream sites or between upstream and downstream sites. No significant correlations were found between incision and impervious area or between incision and percent impervious cover. Incision and stream length were correlated among the upstream sites (r= 0.89; p =0.019) but not among the downstream sites. Eight of the fourteen golf course sites were considered “degraded” based on high percent impervious surface cover (26-100%) in their watersheds.
The change in relationship between bankfull width and incision upstream and downstream of a golf course suggests that bank stabilization affects stream geomorphology. Overall, however, the lack of relationships suggests that in contrast to previous hypotheses, golf courses do not appear to have a major impact on stream geomorphology. Alternatively, antecedent land use, particularly prior cotton farming, may be a controlling factor of current stream morphology.
*Fowler, G., and Muthukrishnan, S., 2009, Geomorphology of streams in urban golf courses in the South Carolina piedmont region, 58th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 41, March 12-13, St. Petersburg, FL[PDF]